We didn't Come here to Answer Cuntish Questions
The Situationists (or, as some would have it, 'Situationism') occupy a peculiar position in political and aesthetic theory today. Or rather they do as a total, unitary project: Debord and Debordism is now totally assimilated into a certain kind of discourse, given the obligatory citation in every post Hardt/Negri disquisition and inserted, with massive inappropriateness, into the moribund world of fine art. The Debord myth is rather pernicious, and is something he himself obviously cultivated - the strategist poring over Machiavelli and Sun Tzu, with murky dealings, a liking for fine claret, a glamorous suicide and an ambiguous autobiography. The SI as a whole seems to have declined in proportion to the rise of this myth. But then there's the other side, the necessary constructive (they would have said 'creative', but that word has ugly resonances nowadays) concomitant to the work of negation.
It's difficult to find, then, a book as wildly unfashionable as Vaneigem's The Revolution of Everyday Life, with its unashamed call for radical subjectivity, alongside today's Maoist ontologies. And whereas with Debord there is a rather mandarin tone, what with his recondite references to military strategy and renaissance intrigue, Vaneigem's book is rich with allusion and detail, whether historical or artistic - Brecht, Victor Serge, The Palais Ideal, The Watts Towers, all corraled into the Situationist Project of a life worth living. One might occasionally bristle at its Romanticism and semi-Vitalism, and like so much 60s leftist thought, it seemed to imagine the postwar settlement was permanent - the possibility of a return to laissez-faire is nowhere to be found - the future of capitalism is seen to be the New Deal, Khrushchevism or Swedish social democracy, and perhaps the SI would have been less scathing about them if they'd have known what they had been replaced with. Perhaps. Yet for all that I would still take the SI over everything ever to have come out of the Ecole Normale Superieure. The Revolution of Everyday Life (which I prefer to the French title, Treatise on Living for the Young Generations, in its evocation of the Constructivist interventions into byt or alltagsleben) is the major work of Situationist Practice, and it reminds constantly of the reason for poverty of art for the last 30 years: its divorce from the everyday.
This is why there's something Situationist in the hardcore continuum - one of the glimpses of possibility that are alluded to by Vaneigem where the democratisation of technology and mass participation are able to create something far more advanced than the autonomous artist can muster. Similarly this is the extension of the art-into-life campaigns of Constructivism, this time stripped of substitutionism. This couldn't be more hostile to the current state of art, which remains utterly contemplative, still stuck in the gallery. Grime (at least when it was at its height) was more Situationist than Hal Foster, artists collectives or university screenings of Debord's films. For all its mystifications and brutalities its proletarian futurism and its sheer everyday mundanity was almost exactly what they had in mind: even its occasional thuggishness reminded of the SI's talent for invective (as in their riposte to the ICA which serves as our title). The SI, like Alexei Gan, declared 'long live the construction of everyday life', and in that the Watts riots and the Watts towers were part of the same thing - and couldn't be further from the panegyrics, eulogies and laments that make up so much of current Leftist thought. The question is, though: what are the instances today of the Construction of everyday life?